Many women unknowingly carry a subtle undercurrent of anxiety. It often lingers beneath the surface, undetected, until it spills into the fabric of everyday life, making it impossible to ignore.
Tips, tools and advice for you on creating and maintaining healthy relationships with those who matter.
Joy and pain are perhaps the opposite sides of the same emotional coin.
I am reminded of the song by Frankie Beverly & Maze, equating these emotions to the weather, much like it has been over the past few days: glorious sunshine in the crisp winter air followed by unexpected thunderous rain. Read more
I have met many women terrified of being labelled as needy in their relationships.
The problem is that the more they resist the unhelpful judgement that goes with labels, the more they deny they have any actual needs.
The truth is we all have needs.
There is a big difference between having needs and neediness. In this blog, I will outline the difference between the two.
I wonder if we ever really get to know ourselves fully.
When I consider the intricacy of all it means to be a human being, I am not sure we do. But we can for sure become more self-aware.
And doing that is now a daily practice for me—a practice of curiosity and fascination with myself. I got into the practice of doing that because, in my marriage, I realised I wasn’t as self-aware as I thought! Read more
Healthy responsibility is fundamental in building a strong and thriving relationship, but what does responsibility in a marriage mean? Read more
Effective communication is the key to any healthy relationship, but it’s not always easy, and couples understandably want to know how to communicate better with each other. Read more
Being in a committed long-term relationship is one of the most significant and rewarding things you can do. It’s also one of the hardest. For couples looking to communicate better or for tools to improve their marriage, reading a good marriage book together can help open you to different possibilities.
Because no one gave you the manual to deal with what to do when you feel your partner doesn’t listen to you. Or if you’re confused about why you can’t converse respectfully and calmly.
For that reason, it’s ideal for all couples to take the time to read books to improve their marriage or relationship. We all need help occasionally. When I say read, I mean to take in well-researched information on supporting you to foster a closer connection.
Your current relationship skill level likely developed similarly to learning a language: you absorbed how effective the relationships of people around you were and then decided to do it the same way or be clear that you wanted to do the exact opposite.
Our parents, in particular, have a significant role to play in our adult relationships’ success and struggles. That’s not to say your parents are to blame. You and your partner – the individuals in your relationship – are ultimately responsible for the relationship you co-create. And without blame, it’s essential to acknowledge the stories we have internalised about love, intimacy and trust and think about new stories and experiences we wish to create.
No-One Teaches You How To Improve Your Marriage
I am pretty confident that when unwrapping the gifts after you said, “I do.” a bundle of the best five marriage books for couples to read for a closer relationship was not the gift you were looking to unwrap. Most of us don’t think we need them at that point in a relationship.
In our careers, we read up on what it means to be a good leader and take successful NCT classes to prepare for parenting or hire a personal trainer to help us run that half marathon. But few spend that much time learning how to create and sustain a good marriage.
Even the best marriage to continue to be successful needs work and loving attention. The right kind of supportive information helps lift some of the load, particularly when it feels heavy. That’s precisely when we start searching for the manual.
Because when it feels heavy, marriage will do at times as a couples therapist, and I have also been the clients’ chair in hard times in my marriage, I know how desperate couples feel to get things back on track.
How To Save A Marriage With Books
Couples counselling is the best way for husbands and wives to reconnect. But some couples want to do some groundwork to prepare themselves for couples counselling first.
Many couples start counselling and are eager to know what they can do in between sessions to deepen the impact of counselling. I often offer ‘homework’ to do that or practice new skills learnt in the sessions.
But I usually see clients for 75 minutes weekly, but what happens in between?
That’s where books to improve your marriage help.
Whether you’re getting ready for counselling, in counselling, or wish books were on that wedding gift list, relationship books are a great way to get your marriage back on track.
Why Books To Improve Your Marriage Help
When couples can read a marriage book together, it helps them see that marriage challenges are common. You’ll know that you are not alone in your struggles, and you’ll have fresh insight into why you are going through what you are going through.
A good relationship book will also challenge you to think differently; if something isn’t working, repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result will cause frustration.
But with so much choice, how do you choose? I entered ‘couples, self-help’ on Amazon, and over 20000 search results appeared. Somewhat overwhelming!
So out of that, I recommend seven great books from relationship experts. I have read and enjoyed them all and use them in my practice.
Nearly all the books examine the unconscious dynamic, an integral part of my work as a couple therapist. What we often call ‘chemistry’ in a relationship is an unconscious familiarity we feel in the presence of another person that we cannot explain. These books make sense of the platform on which your relationship is built and give you tools and techniques to practise to create something new.
The 7 Best Books For Relationship To Create A Successful Marriage
1. The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other by James Hollis.
James Hollis is a Jungian therapist and a superb writer. I adore all of his work that I have read. This book is no exception. The Eden Project is beautifully and sensitively written. But don’t get too comfortable because the author challenges you. It asks you to reflect on idealised notions of romance and love. So if you’re a romantic, it may irk.
Hollis argues that romantic love is a way to avoid fully accepting and owning who you are. We unconsciously seek out the ‘magical’ other half, and as the famous quote goes, we feel complete. But this narcissistic way of achieving a sense of self stores problems. Inevitably, it doesn’t work in a relationship because sooner or later, we realise that we don’t feel complete and that the other person cannot make us feel complete; we feel controlled and depressed.
Inevitably, the relationship faces a vital but often painful disillusionment when partners feel disappointed and let down. Another person cannot complete you. Paradoxically in relationships, our journey is to discover ourselves and to allow and witness our partner do the same while maintaining the union. I thoroughly recommend this book to improve your marriage.Hollis poignantly asks: ‘What do we ask from others that we could do for ourselves?’
2. My Lover, Myself: Self-Discovery Through Relationship by David Kantor.
My Lover, Myself is another relationship book by a Jungian therapist. My Lover, Myself, uses couples’ personal stories to provide examples to help you understand and relate to the author’s key points. I love that.
In the book, he outlines childhood experiences influence adult relationships. He emphasises the role of your Shadow, the uncomfortable parts of you that you unconsciously disown. What you deny in yourself, you see clearly in your partner.
Kantor reflects that allowing your partner to mirror back these shadow parts is an opportunity for intimacy and to restore hidden desires. However much they feel, a distant memory. The book encourages you to reflect on how your personal story and that of your partner intertwine to co-create the relationship you have. Like Hollis, Kantor also describes the necessary disillusionment phase, and he explains it is how we use our disappointment with our partner that has the potential to deepen the connection.
3. Your Brain on Love; The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin
If the first two books are on the psychology of relationships, Your Brain on Love is about biology or, more specifically, neurobiology. It was a relatively easy listen as an audiobook.
First, Taktin describes the neurobiology of falling in love giving a simple insight into the role of attachment styles in our relationships. He explains the initial passionate infatuation phase and describes the three main attachment styles in detail.
What is particularly useful are the clear illustrations of some of the default ways of relating and behaving in relationships because of attachment styles. Tatkin explains how these behaviours, because of the different styles, can lead to conflict and challenges in the relationship. Crucially he offers strategies for how to manage these conflicts.
I enjoyed this book; it’s a great book to improve your marriage because it gets couples to understand that things that feel personal are often not. It’s because your neurobiology or internal safety programming is different, which means you behave differently. With awareness comes a different outlook on the ebbs and flows of a relationship. Then there is the possibility of compassion, understanding and, importantly, change. Handily, the author includes some great communication tools so you can quickly put out those emotional fires.
4. Tell Me No Lies by Ellyn Bader, PhD and Peter T Pearson PhD
This book helps to improve your marriage by helping you understand the dynamics of your marriage in the context of the four stages of marriage. Tell Me No Lies is based on the premise that partners lie to each other often. Not only that, but we frequently lie to ourselves. The lies and dishonesty mask marriage problems and our negative beliefs about ourselves that erode self-esteem.
Either way, the authors describe how lies have tremendous potential to destroy a relationship but, surprisingly, also to nurture it. When you identify your marital stage, you can overcome the barriers to honesty and move on to a happier and more fulfilling marriage. As a practitioner of the Bader and Pearsons Developmental Model for Couples, I love their straightforward, clear, practical and honest approach. This book will compassionately guide you to creating an open and thriving marriage.
5. The Relationship Skills Workbook, Julia B Colwell. PhD
A brilliant workbook to help couples disentangle from power struggles, blame and conflict. What I love about the book is how it teaches you to recognise, name and articulate feelings and emotions as a basis for more transparent and honest conversations.
Keeping our feelings to ourselves takes us absolutely in the wrong direction.
6. How To Be An Adult in Relationships, David Richo
When it comes to how to improve your marriage with books, I could list all of Richo’s work. Richo focuses on becoming a more loving person and having more realistic expectations of long-term partnerships. The book is based on The Five A’s: attention, acceptance, affection, appreciation and allowing. It navigates through the stages of relationships and the specific challenges instead of looking for the ideal partner. At the end of each chapter are many helpful exercises. These include expressing anger appropriately and knowing the difference between healthy conflict and abuse.
7. All About Love: New Visions: 1 (Love Song to the Nation, 1), bell hooks
Although strictly not a couple’s self-help book, I have included it simply because I love it. hooks explores what love is. She reflects, ‘The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet . . . we would all love better if we used it as a verb.’
Love is about what we do, practice and take action. Love is active. It takes intention, investment and involvement. Read this book and discover your own thoughts about love.
Over to you
To know is not to be wise. To know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. Charles Spurgeon
Books are a valuable guide. They are a helpful place to start deepening your understanding of what’s going on in your relationship. These seven essential books to help heal a broken relationship are a great place to start.
Books are not, however, a replacement for couples counselling. Working with a couples counsellor or marriage coach helps to use the knowledge learnt.
A helpful book will set you in the right direction for repairing your relationship. Talking things through in a space such as couples counselling is invaluable.
If you’re stuck and want to know if you can fix your struggling relationship or if it’s time to leave, get in touch for a clarity session. I can help.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2023
Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialise in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.
Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore creative solutions to their difficulties and deepen their self-knowledge to discover what keeps them ‘stuck’ in their marriages to create and experience extraordinary relationships.
We take for granted many things we do in our adult lives, so many things that we learnt or experienced growing up, good or bad. As a therapist, people can get wary when asked to talk about their childhoods. But understanding your partners and your childhood experiences can strengthen your relationship. Read more
We are well and truly in autumn: a new season but a familiar pattern. Every year the seasons come and go. It’s nature’s predictable and yet often unpredictable cycle.
Relationships are the same. They, too, have their seasons. For many couples, the pattern feels unpredictable. A period of what feels like the depth of winter never entirely shifts to make way for spring with all its possibilities. Read more
Today I’m going to explore the Jungian archetype of the Shadow, everything we can’t see in ourselves, and the importance of shadow work in relationships. Read more